Category Archives: Life Stuff

Necco Wafers, Ranked


The internet is overrun by unnecessary rankings of all kinds, usually in an attempt to reveal the greatest, worst, and most overrated or underrated ephemera “of all time!”  They’re easy lies to draw eyeballs, in order to make a quick buck.  I’m an attention-starved wannabe writer, so I need to swallow my pride and join the crowd because I am no better than anyone else.

This week’s rankings are inspired by the ample Easter candy I’ve been munching all week.  Necco Wafers are my favorite confection and I don’t care that they’re essentially flavored chalk.  And now, after eating them and little else in recent days, it’s time to definitively order their quality.

8.  Orange (Orange)

They’re terrible.  If you mashed them up and poured the dust into a solution with viscosity somewhere between yogurt and milk, you would get the exact taste of my childhood’s most hated medicine.  I don’t remember what it’s called, but the fact remains: Orange Necco Wafers taste like medicine.

7.  Chocolate (Brown)

Also fairly maligned by my taste buds, the chocolate flavor does not mix well with the chalky qualities.  If you’re going to eat chocolate, it needs to be at least somewhat chewy.  But when your chocolate is itself crunchy — without, say, rice like in a Crunch bar — it doesn’t work.

6.  Lemon (Yellow)

A huge improvement over the previous two entries, there is nothing wrong with the lemon flavored Neccos.  They’re a little on the bland side, as the lemon flavoring is not particularly overpowering.  But they’re pleasant and I don’t get frustrated when there are an inordinate number of them in a roll.

5.  Licorice (Black)

A flavor that has fallen precipitously in my estimation since my childhood.  It’s still good, but the amount of black licorice — and black licorice-flavored snacks — I’ve had in my life has numbed me to its finer points.  Still tasty, but not the overwhelming deliciousness I remember from my younger days.

4.  Clove (Purple)

One that has risen as I’ve aged, clove is tasty and always a pleasant palette cleanser after the lesser Neccos on the lower end of the list.  This is probably not reflective of the truth, but the clove-flavored wafers are seemingly the rarest of the bunch, and they almost never appear twice in a row.

3.  Lime (Green)

Now we’re talking.  I get genuinely excited when I see a green pop up in the roll.  They have a strange spicy kick to them at the beginning, but the aftertaste is smooth.  As a bonus, they tend to appear packed together several in a row.

2.  Cinnamon (White)

Much like the limes, the whites have the spice one would expect from cinnamon.  They’re overpowering in the best way, especially when chewed after the gross ones.

1.  Wintergreen (Pink)

I save the best for last.  With every roll I get, I unravel the paper wrapping and pick out every pink wafer I see, then pile them together.  Most other wafers disappear rapidly, but the pinks I savor.  The aftertaste sticks around for a while, which is nice, too.

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Slate and I Must Be Neighbors in the Idea Space


“… [A] space in which mental events can be said to occur, an idea space which is perhaps universal. Our individual consciousnesses have access to this vast universal space, just as we have individual houses, but the street outside the front door belongs to everybody. It’s almost as if ideas are pre-existing forms within this space… The landmasses that might exist in this mind space would be composed entirely of ideas, of concepts, that instead of continents and islands you might have large belief systems, philosophies, Marxism might be one, Judeo-Christian religions might make up another.” – Comic book writer Alan Moore on the “Idea Space” from the documentary, The Mindscape of Alan Moore [courtesy of Wikipedia].

Moore’s words are weighing on my mind today as I read Slate’s post about Bob’s Burgers by writer Jon Christian.  Christian takes the same premise, analyzes the same scene, quotes the same lines, and comes to (mostly) the same conclusions I did when writing for the TV Addict last week about Tina Belcher, the show’s eldest daughter.

From Christian’s opening, published yesterday, April 17.

There’s a wonderful scene in Season 3 of Bob’s Burgers, in which the eponymous restaurateur lets his 13-year-old daughter Tina drive the family’s car in a nearly-empty lot. “Let’s make this kitty purr,” Tina monotones, glancing nervously at her dad from the driver’s seat. She pulls out of the parking space at a snail’s pace, and starts to groan with anxiety. Bob talks over the groan, calmly reassuring Tina, his voice rising as she sets them on a glacial collision course with the only other car.

“OK, Tina, you’re kinda headed toward the only other car in the lot,” he says. “You have plenty of time to turn, Tina, so just go ahead, turn one way or the other.” Tina’s groan intensifies. “You’re just swerving back and forth,” Bob says, now alarmed. “Turn one way and stick with it, Tina. Tina for the love of God, turn away or stop! The brakes, Tina, the brakes!”

Needless to say, Tina totals the car.

And now, from mine, published on April 8.

Take, for instance, her driving lesson at the start of the season’s seventh episode, “Tina-rannasaurus Wrecks.” Tina’s father, Bob, gets the bright idea to let her drive his car in a mostly empty parking lot as a treat for helping him run errands. Tina’s unsure and antsy, but she hops in the driver’s seat and says with faux confidence (re: terrified trepidation), “Let’s make this kitty purr.”

What follows is perhaps the greatest slow-burn visual gag in years. Despite Bob’s initially reassuring tone, Tina starts groaning in the way only she can as voiced by Mintz (“Uuuuuuunnnnnnngggggh.”). She knows exactly what needs to be done, but it’s scary. She’s paralyzed. She’s also not moving beyond idle speed, which builds the comedic value exponentially the closer she gets to the only other parked car in the lot. Increasingly frustrated and later panicked, Bob tells her all she needs to do is turn the wheel slightly in either direction, and later to brake, but this goes about as well as you would expect.

The similarities follow with connections made to Tina’s groan being the perfect sonic example of the go-nowhere sense shared by many millennials in my situation.  They differ as Christian goes into a short discussion of Tina’s place in the zeitgeist as a feminist hero.

I joked with a few people this morning about how Slate “basically plagiarized me,” but that is likely a fiction.  My best days on this site get maybe 50 views, most of them from friends, family, and whoever actually reads the stuff on Blog Surfer before the time limit runs out.  I don’t have the readership numbers for my post on the TV Addict, but I can’t imagine some nobody like me would have garnered much attention on my first post there — speaking of which, I pitched some more ideas to them, so I’ll be writing there again, perhaps as soon as later today.

Which is an extended way of saying, I’m not interesting or established enough to plagiarize.  Yet.  I do recognize that Christian’s piece is surprisingly similar to mine, and maybe even suspiciously so, but I’m struck by how much better a writer Christian is than me.  He supports the ideas better than I did, which goes to show that I have a long way to go before I can get paid to do this; if anything, he refined my thoughts.  Besides, like the Moore quote above says, ideas tend to grow from multiple sources.  There’s no such thing as an original thought.  It’s all a matter of organization of those ideas to form something worthwhile.  Christian and I were struck by the same moment, and latched onto the same themes, likely because that was the intent of episode writer Jon Schroeder.  The idea came down our block of the Idea Space, and I said hello to it a week before Christian did.

Or, who knows, maybe he plagiarized me.

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Wedding Ingratiation Tips


I went to a wedding this weekend at which I only knew my girlfriend and her immediate family; it’s why I haven’t written anything since Friday.  I felt I needed to make a positive impression on the bride, Emily’s (she would be my girlfriend) former neighbor and one of her oldest friends.  It worked, so I have some incredibly specific advice in easily digestible bullet point form.

1.  Imply your grooming is all about looking nice and not for opportunistic, superstitious reasons.

On dermatologist’s orders — long story short: razor burn is significantly worse for me than the average man — I’ve had a beard for the last year and a half, only shaving it once in that time because I royally screwed up trimming it.  Before we left for St. Louis Friday, I took an extra few minutes in the bathroom and emerged with a hairless face.  I looked five years younger and clean as a whistle.

What nobody at the wedding needed to know is that I mostly did it for hockey.

The Chicago Blackhawks’ final regular season game coincided with Saturday’s ceremony, and it is NHL tradition for players and fans to grow beards for as long as the team remains alive in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.  But you have to start fresh; no cheating.  I took the opportunity to score points with strangers by doing something I planned for months to do anyway.  It made it extra special when I realized the Hawks would likely (and Sunday’s games’ results bore this out) play the St. Louis Blues in the first round, and my superstition took place in a room surrounded by Blues fans.  They have received enough support from the baseball gods in that town, so my covert call to the hockey gods to continue my favorite team’s run of success shouldn’t be too much to ask.

2.  Don’t be too creeped out by the pop-up town where the wedding takes place.

New Town, St. Charles, Missouri, is an unnerving place.  It’s beautiful, with European-style canals, a town square designed for foot traffic (including a comic book store, which I greatly appreciated), and gorgeous brownstones everywhere.  But there’s something amiss about it.

It appears out of nowhere in the middle of a giant field.  Everyone is pleasant, too pleasant.  Children ride their bikes and laugh without being snotty bastards to the people in their way.

New Town feels like a 19th century utopia town.  The idea is to pull for each other and be self-reliant, a mark of perfection the rest of us lowly degenerates on the outside must strive to be, just as Sir Thomas More intended it.  Lucky for those of us at the wedding, we visited the place before it devolved into bickering and bitter strikes over the disgust at having to do everything for the “benevolent” overlord who created the town.  Disaster narrowly averted.

3.  Prepare yourself so as to avoid complaining about physical pain.

My dress shoes look nice.  They shine, they fit well enough, and I look good wearing them.  They also hurt like the Dickens if I wear them too long because the heels are razor thin.  I once walked a mile to a job interview in them and my heels bled and scabbed for weeks.  Why women wear shoes that do this to them regularly, I cannot comprehend.

There is a simple solution: insulation.  I need to wear more than nylon dress socks.  I tossed on my thick cotton Haynes socks and slid the dress blacks over them.  The bright white shone through the black, but my feet didn’t bleed.  I did not complain, and all was well.

4.  Dance.

I am not good at dancing, but I am good at looking dumb.  People like this.  Always do it.

5.  Make silly faces at the flower girl(s).

This wedding had co-flower girls, two cousins a couple months apart in age.  They were adorable, giggling their way down the aisle.  They spent the better part of the reception hopping, running in circles, and laughing in delight.

They also chose me as their antagonist for the night.  Every time I looked at them, they stuck their tongues out, hid, or obstinately crossed their arms.  No matter how hard I tried, they would not give me high fives.  I think it was all in good fun, or maybe I’m a monstrous goon.  Either way, I started mirroring their defiance, and they had fun playing the goofy face game with me on the dance floor.  By the end of the night, with one flower girl in tears of exhaustion, I finally tapped her on the shoulder and leveled with her.

“I’ve been trying to get a high five from you all night.  It made me sad when you ran away,” I said.

Through sniffles, she lifted her hand and wound back before giving me her best high five.  The games had not been for naught.  I had succeeded.

I think people liked me.

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An Ode to the Perfect Parking Job


Last night I performed the ultimate feat of urban living.  I worked late into the evening because I’m a terrible procrastinator who does not plan well.  My girlfriend and I live on the far north side of Chicago, a wretched hive of cars and villainy (re: potholes).  If you don’t beat your neighbors home before rush hour, you’re out of luck.  As 10 p.m. rolled around and I was just turning on our block, I knew my parking choices would be limited to some second-rate places, like the morning rush-restricted lane (no thanks, 6 a.m. alarm clock) or the block that a week ago featured gunshots I had to call into 9-1-1.

Things looked grim.  I inched my way down the street, letting each gap of more than a couple feet enter the realm of possibility.  My 2009 Chevrolet Impala, Reginald VelJohnson, is not the nimblest of beasts.  Rather, he is ungainly and difficult to maneuver under the best circumstances.

Dud after dud after fire hydrant, nothing presented itself.  I sensed another long night of searching for some kindly real estate large enough to fit Reginald would be on the docket.

But wait, a glimmer of hope.  I saw a spot, one that would have normally resigned me to defeat, between two darkened cousins of Reginald, black and blue Chevys, parked tantalizingly far enough apart to dream on.  I pulled along the cars and put my car in park in the middle of the street.  I needed a closer view.

Using my hands as the world’s least reliable rulers, I measured the distance between them and deduced I would have just enough room to squeeze in.

“Maybe,” I said aloud, uncaring about what the neighbor walking his dogs would think of the guy walking around his still running car, talking to himself.  I returned to the driver’s seat and steeled myself for the most skillful driving I had ever attempted.  I adjusted the driver’s side mirror to properly gauge my distance from the curb.  I turned down the volume of the close game between the Cubs and Pirates that was going down to the wire.  I did not want any distractions.

I shifted to reverse and made the cut.  So far, so good.  Oh crap, the blue one is right there.  “No way will I get this,” I thought.  But I cut the wheel the other way and straightened.  Now I found myself wedged at an awkward angle that resembled a capitalized Z.

“Oh boy,” I said.  I twisted the wheel and reversed an inch.  I twisted again and tapped the gas forward.

Bounce!

“Disaster!” I thought.  My eyes darted around.  Gone was Mr. Judgmental Dog Walker, and nobody else saw.  My hands gripped the wheel again and I dug in for the long haul.

The tires squeaked as they shifted on the damp pavement.  I had a beads of sweat from concentrating so hard.  Forward, stop, turn, backward, stop, turn, forward, stop.  This went on for 20 minutes.  But eventually, the job was done.  Reginald was nestled safely, with maybe an inch and a half total between his bumpers and theirs.

Car front park job

Car Back park job 2Now, I better hope my neighbors go to work in the morning, because there’s no way I’ll get out of there.

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Read Me at the TV Addict


Daniel Malen at the TV Addict graciously gave me a chance this week to write about Bob’s Burgers, a show I love dearly.  I found the connections between eldest daughter Tina Belcher and the current problems facing my generation.  It is the first of hopefully many things I write for the website as I march towards making this writing thing a career.  Go check it out and read other great TV Addict content.

http://www.thetvaddict.com/2014/04/08/bobs-burgers-tina-belcher-appreciation/

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Welcome Back to Defeating Boredom


A little on where I’ve been since I last wrote here:

A year ago, I was busy finishing up college at the ripe age of 24, mostly because I can’t finish things.  I made it, though, but I quit utilizing this website in the process for studying and finishing projects.  I got the piece of paper that validated me as a person of value, so the world was the oyster which would kill me if I ate it; allergies and such. I moved back to Chicago into a fancy (re: not fancy, but we’re feet away from Lake Michigan, so that’s neat) apartment with my girlfriend, Emily, and our cat, Lloyd.

I got a “life changing” job where I had to wear a suit and sell satellite TV — and my soul — in big box stores with the promise of “owning my own company within a year if [I was] willing to put in the work and build up a team of like-minded people.”  If that sounds like a pyramid scheme, that’s because they were self loathers, because the only thing separating the business model from a pyramid scheme is that you don’t have to buy into it financially, until you count the “personal responsibility” of paying for your own gas when driving 50-60 miles a day.  And it worked hook, line, sinker for a guy with no real world skills and no other job offers.

At the “only job [I’d] ever have,” (Copyright summer 2013) they taught us all kinds of selling techniques, most of which revolved around how to control other human beings and how to delude yourself into thinking you’re having a good time when you’d rather have your head in an oven.  Examples included shaking your ass in a non-dance setting that is not at all humiliating and playing that insipid “Meow” game from Super Troopers that never, ever gets old with people who you were purportedly trying to woo to buy a product with a longstanding poor reputation.  I “put in the work,” and plenty of extra hours, but of course the results weren’t there because I’m an introverted mess with a martyr complex and a healthy skepticism of the notion that “the top one percent got that way because they worked harder than everyone.” (Copyright several meetings that conveniently forgot about cops, farmers, firefighters, plumbers, etc., summer 2013)  Oh, and a beard.  Holy Christ did I underestimate the effect a beard, even in our hirsute era, would have on my perceived trustworthiness.  If you can guess, I did not last long.  Two months and a few days, in fact.  But hey, I got to go to a conference at which I was served some pretty tasty potato pancakes, so I shouldn’t complain.

Enter unemployment for my first time as a non-student.  Holy moly, what a rush!  I went to a Cubs-Cardinals game for a bachelor party the day after I was fired, got drunk, and ate Chinese food.  Then they left and I had to search for a replacement job.  Ah, phooey.

So I made it my full-time job to look for a full-time job.  I watched a lot of movies in this time, which I could have easily been writing reviews for, but I had given up that nonsense months earlier to work “the only job [I’d] ever have.” (Copyright summer 2013)  I went on one of my patented “Director seasons” binges, watching a large number of Fritz Lang and John Carpenter movies throughout the fall.  I ate a lot of rice.  I looked for job after job.  I interviewed to be a dog walker.  Nothing came of it because I’m clearly not dog walking material.

A month and a half passed.  I got bored one day and buzzed all my hair off.  Don’t worry, I didn’t do any jarring, Royal Tenenbaums-style tonal shifts, although I did show off the wacky Christopher Meloni-but-with-a-widow’s-peak hairline I’ve had since I was four years old.  And what do you know, I got a new job.

I currently do in-store advertising for a marketing company.  You know those cardboard signs that hang in the aisles?  If you’ve seen them in grocery stores and pharmacies on the north side of Chicago since September, you’ve seen my handiwork.  It’s a fine job, one I don’t mind having.  It’s nice to have a blank check to procrastinate most weeks, when I can easily put everything off and work two 12 to 15-hour days back-to-back, like the erstwhile journalism student I am.

But therein lies the problem.  During the absolute busiest weeks, I get about 40 hours.  The rest of the time, I lounge around, read internet articles voraciously, play Lumosity, avoid washing the dishes, watch movies (98 this year when counting shorts. Yes, really.), and don’t sleep.

Insomnia out the wazzoo, first time ever.  I’ve tried the eminently healthy drinking myself to sleep approach, sleepy time tea, working out like a madman earlier in the day, counting sheep, the works.

So I changed things up a bit.  I made the unheard of choice to use my degree.  I pitched a story to a website.  They let me cover it.  They published me.  It was nice.

It was also pro bono.  I’m still in the “you have to do it for free before you do it for not-free” stage of pursuing my dream, so I’m pitching ideas to other websites, with one very exciting opportunity on the horizon related to my favorite rebuilding baseball team.  I need to drag this blog out of retirement.  I need to keep doing this free stuff until I find a job that wants me for my only skill: writing.  Because I’m not working “the only job [I’ll] ever have.” (Copyright winter 2014)

So what can you expect from the rechristened Defeating Boredom?  In the long run, I’d love to either make or, more likely, write about movies for a living, so film criticism of all stripes (reviews, think pieces about trends in the industry, filmmaker retrospectives, midnight movie experiences, hopefully some interviews with up-and-comers and theater owners, etc.) will be my primary interest.  But, like every cab driver you’ve ever had, I also have fallen in love with NPR’s long-form storytelling shows, like This American Life and Snap Judgmentso don’t be surprised to see me go down the rabbit hole with people I meet.  I’ve grown quite politically aware in recent years, so more political thinking will pop up with hopefully far less histrionics than you’ll see on real pundits’ sites; I’m more interested in the stories people tell and the trends they form, not so much in grandstanding in order to make a point about the evils perpetrated by the other side.  I have long wanted to return to my high school glory days of “discovering” new music, so perhaps I’ll finally start listening to Pandora again and writing about what new sounds strike me.  I’ve never posted fiction on here before, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t written it, so my attempts at artistry could rear their pretentious heads in the coming weeks and months.  But mostly expect a quality bump in my output, as I try to trade my hackiest tendencies for stronger, mature storytelling.

Speaking of hacky tendencies, here you go.

Welcome back, everyone.  I hope you enjoy your stay at the new Defeating Boredom.

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